Rome Colosseum Being Restored for Wider Public Viewing

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
June 29, 2001

ROME, Italy—Emperor Titus Vespasianus Augustus ruled Rome for just two years, yet his short-lived government changed the city's landscape forever.

Having succeeded his father Vespasian in 79 A.D., the former commander of the Praetorian Guard enjoyed unexpected popularity.

A good-looking and cultivated 39-year-old, Titus gave generously to the victims of Pompeii, he built the Arco di Tito to commemorate his capture of Jerusalem, and even found time to construct public baths.

But above all, he was to be remembered as the man who inaugurated the Flavian amphitheater in 80 A.D., with lavish celebrations lasting more than 100 days and nights. Some 5,000 animals were said to have been slaughtered for the occasion.

Nearly 2,000 years of wars, earthquakes, vandalism, and general wear-and-tear have reduced what was once the glory of the empire into a ruin.

Now it is up to architect Giangiacomo Martines to return Rome's Colosseum to the people. He is in charge of a major U.S. $18-million-dollar restoration project, the biggest since 1836.

As well as providing valuable funds for crucial research into the largest standing building from the ancient world, the project aims to expand the amount of space open to tourists.

Preservation and Expanded Use

When restoration started, in 1995, just 15 percent of the Colosseum was open to visitors. Martines hopes that by the time the project is completed, in 2003, as much as 85 percent will be visible to the public.

"Keeping an old monument closed to visitors is like locking a vintage car in a museum—it may be nice to look at, but if you try to start its engine, it won't work," said Martines.

According to Martines, the more the Colosseum is opened up to visitors, the better preserved it will be for the future. "Tourists are good for the Colosseum. They keep it in working order," he said.

Visitors can only be grateful to Martines' uncommon approach to conservation, which initially lifted more than one eyebrow among his colleagues.

Last year, as many as 2.5 million people toured the world's most famous amphitheater, making it by far Italy's most visited site.

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